Torture, replacements and divorce, oh my!
This week the drama in the White House was centered around the firing of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, personal drama in the Trump family and the dubious backgrounds of the new nominees for Secretary of State and CIA Director.
The Big Drama
What happened to Rex?
Rex Tillerson was fired this week from his position as Secretary of State – a move that has been a long time coming if you look at his relationship with the President over the last few months. As has frequently been the case with the Trump administration, the tweets say it all and the president’s tweets about Tillerson have been less than complimentary. One notable tweet claimed that Tillerson was wasting his time trying to negotiate with North Korea – a comment that is now extremely ironic considering the president’ intends to meet with North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, at the end of May to negotiate.
Now that Rex Tillerson has been fired, it is time to brace ourselves for another drama-filled and drawn out confirmation. In this case, we are given the gift of two confirmation sessions as Trump nominated the current CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be the new Secretary of State, allowing for his deputy at the CIA, Gina Haspel, to be confirmed as the new CIA Director.
While Mike Pompeo himself is polarizing – he has long been considered a war hawk, and has made some discriminatory remarks against Muslims – the real drama this week has surrounded his proposed replacement at the CIA, Gina Haspel. News website ProPublica published a story this week claiming that Haspel oversaw a base in Thailand where suspected terrorist Abu Zubaydah was subjected to torture, including waterboarding. While this story has since been detracted, its proliferation amongst the news has made her confirmation far from a sure thing, with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul vowing to oppose her confirmation, as well as that of Mike Pompeo. Once again, the Trump White House must brace itself for a tough confirmation process.
More Drama Bombs
Speaking of a tough confirmation process, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had another awkward moment this week, with a difficult 60 Minutes interview. In the interview, DeVos struggled to answer basic questions about public schools – claiming she had no knowledge whether public schools were improving, and that she never intentionally visits underperforming schools.
One absurd quote from this interview highlights just how little the Secretary of Education knows about education, stating “I hesitate to talk about schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them.” Of course, the Secretary of Education is the main official who should be talking about schools, so this quote is a bit problematic.
Another tense moment this week ensued when a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) resigned this week, citing that he “quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts.” The spokesman, James Schwab, claimed he had been told to deflect questions about the Oakland, California mayor’s interference with an ICE raid last month – and that these orders were the last straw. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and ICE will likely be probed further over these claims in the next few weeks.
Other Major Players
- Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to say the word “Russia” when questioned this week about a poisoning in the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Theresa May has linked the attack to Russia and calls it an unprovoked attack on UK soil. Sanders is standing with the Trump Administration, which has stridently refused to blame Russia for election tampering, the spread of “fake news” and more.
- Vanessa Trump, the wife of Donald Trump Jr., filed for divorce this week after 12 years of marriage. This happened after she opened a letter containing a white powder this month, leading to a hospital visit and concern within the Trump family and White House.
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